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The Humane Element

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Believe it or not the sabermetric dogma does not state that the beings who play baseball are robots. The players are all human. They are as human as you or me. All unique in their own right; some are strange, some are disturbing, some are truly endearing and lovable. When James Shields entered Saturday night's game (which Tommy will discuss in more depth minutes from now), Jonah Keri asked me whether I thought Joe Maddon had approached Shields or vice versa. Without hesitation I replied that it was likely Shields who initiated the idea of entering the game. Sure enough, that was the case (with Andy Sonnanstine too).

I have never met James Shields. I probably never will. I'd like to think I know his personality as a baseball player from observing him from afar the past five seasons. He's fiery at times. Confident always. His heart holds no resentment for lacking an assortment of spear-like fastballs, but rather arrogance because Shields packs a phalanx of quality offerings headed by a cannonball change-up. In his mind, batters can go down to no better pitcher. Shields puts himself out there every time out. He puts himself out there when he gives advice to teammates; whether instructing Chad Orvella and on his uprightness in delivery or Troy Percival and attempting to teach the old dog Shields' weapon of mass deception.

He seems like a good teammate. He is a good pitcher. He is a great asset on his contract. There are few players on the Rays who should be more loved and respected than him. There are few players on the Rays who I'd rather keep a career Ray. Maybe only one, but yes, he's a baseball player. And yes, ultimately he should be judged as a baseball player by his performance on the field. And yes, he is a person, and yes, ultimately he should be judged as a person by his performance off the field.

And you know, we don't have complete scouting reports or data breakdowns on what I'm about to produce. My only source was the 2010 Rays media guide. Everyone sees how well Evan Longoria can hit or how fast Carl Crawford can run. But you know, we don't get to see the community and charity contributions these guys make and rarely do we hear about them.

They are people. Here's the proof.

Willy Aybar

Donates to the Rays Baseball Foundation

Grant Balfour

During 2009 served Camp Anytown, Reading with the Rays, Tobacco Free Florida, and Clearwater for Youth. Also participated in the 2008 Challenger Little League Jamboree.  

Jason Bartlett

Partnered with Sweetbay Supermarkets and raised $30,000 for America's Second Harvest of Tampa Bay and their Kids Café program, which provides free meals to hungry children.

Reid Brignac

Partakes in We Play Green. An organization focused to build awareness about the environmental crisis. Assisted in Baton Rouge youth baseball camps.

Lance Cormier

Assisted in "Baseball Country" a religious-based organization that mixes baseball and study camps.

Carl Crawford

Partook in the Reading with the Rays program. Attended the Rays Community Fund Grant. Donated more than $400,000 to the Rays Baseball Foundation. Hosted "Catching up with Carl Crawford" which aims to encourage African-American youth to pursue baseball. Founded the Carl Crawford Youth Sports foundation in Houston. And continued involvement in the Rays Youth Field Renovation Program.

Wade Davis

Founding Full Count, which aims to influence inner-city youth as well as special needs children. Held pitching clinics with underprivileged kids in 2008. Partook in Pitch In For Baseball, a charity that collects baseball merchandise for underprivileged children.

Matt Garza

His foundation, Brush ‘Em Back 22, holds baseball clinics and raises money to fight child abuse.

Desmond Jennings

Holds baseball clinics in the off-season with high schoolers from near his hometown in Alabama, where he also spoke with elementary school children.

Elliot Johnson

Held baseball camps for youth in Durham and spoke at a fundraiser for the Orange High School baseball program.

Matt Joyce

Participated in a Florida Southern College golf tournament to raise money for the college as well as a tournament to raise funds for breast cancer awareness.

Gabe Kapler

Visited sick children at Moffitt Cancer Center during the season and spoke to high schoolers to teach them how to get involved in their communities. Established the Gabe Kapler Foundation in 2004 to raise funds to end domestic violence.

Evan Longoria

Participated in the Bob Hope Chrslyer Classic, which gives all net proceeds to more than 40 charities.

Dioner Navarro

Along with his wife, visited multiple schools and spoke on the importance of staying in school. Involved with Reading with the Rays. Started the Dioner Navarro Family Foundation which lists St. Joseph's Hospital as one of the beneficiaries.

Carlos Pena

Appeared on local television to help with relief efforts following the Haiti earthquake and also donated $15,000 along with supplies. Is a spokesperson for Big Brothers Big Sisters and hosted roughly 100 kids at home games. Spoke in front of more than 400 community leaders at the Mayor's Interfaith Prayer Breakfast in May 2009.

Fernando Perez

Read to kids at the Town N'Coutnry Regional Library to start the Reading with the Rays program. Participated in the Hot Stove, Cool Music program that benefits inner-city social programs in Boston and New York.

David Price

Signed autographs at the Rays Block Party which doubles as a school supply drive. Spoke to 150 youth players in December while also hosting "A Night with David Price & Friends" at Vanderbilt and to help his foundation, Project One Four, which assists numerous charities, including the RBI program and his high school. Hosted a bowling tournament to benefit the Nathan Stephens Foundation.

James Shields

Named the Rays nominee for the 2009 Roberto Clement Award. Attended the re-opening of the Norma Lloyd Park as part of the Rays Field Renovation Program. Alongside his wife worked with the Heart Gallery, a photographic and audio exhibit created to find foster children homes.

Kelly Shoppach

Has worked with The Providence House, a shelter for abused women and children in Cleveland.

Alex Torres

Has hosted several clinics near his home town of Valencia, Venezuela for little leaguers.

B.J. Upton

Hosted his second Celebrity Golf Classic to benefit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the tournament has raised more than $55,000 during its two year existence. Volunteered in the Rays South St. Petersburg Family Funday event, playing waffle ball and touch football with the attendees. Donated $2,50 to local teenagers raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Dan Wheeler

Participated in the Challenger Jamboree as well as Reading with the Rays. Taped a PSA for the Moffitt Spring Swing and spoke at the team's Community Fund Grant announcement. Contributes to Strikeouts for Troops.

Ben Zobrist

Hosted a waffle ball tournament with neighborhood kids in Nashville. Hosted baseball camps with proceeds going to Peoria Christian Center.

That's quite a list.

Again, the source for all of this is the 2010 Rays media guide with some of it copied verbatim. The players included are only those on the 40-man at the start of the spring. This doesn't mean those not listed aren't charitable and frankly the concern shouldn't be with those who aren't there. Be thankful for those who are.